DANVERS — The offense was a bit spotty, but Pentucket's defense was more than enough to dispose of St. Mary's of Lynn last night in the Division 3 North semifinals at St. John's Prep.
Led by senior captain Ashley Viselli, that defense fueled a 58-48 victory to advance the unbeaten Sachems (24-0) to Saturday's Division 3 North championship game at Emmanuel College.
Pentucket will face No. 7 Bishop Fenwick at 2 p.m. Fenwick advanced by beating Stoneham 53-49.
The 5-foot-9 Viselli led the Sachems with 15 points, but it was the other parts of her game that stood out. Against a taller St. Mary's team, Viselli had 15 rebounds, 6 steals, 5 blocks and 5 assists.
"Ashley can just be a monster," said Pentucket coach John McNamara. "I don't think many people realize how much she does for us. She does it all — she's the real deal."
The vaunted Sachem defense was at its best in the first quarter. After spotting St. Mary's an early 4-0 lead, Pentucket went on an impressive 17-3 run that included five St. Mary's turnovers, four of which resulted in baskets.
Ahead 19-10 after the first quarter, Pentucket built its biggest lead of the night, 30-10, by clicking off 11 straight points to start the second quarter.
St. Mary's (17-7) played much better after that. The Spartans — led by 6-foot-1 center and 1,000-point scorer Tori Faieta (21 points, 16 rebounds) — cut the lead to 33-19 after the first quarter.
They trailed by 13 (47-34) after three quarters and eight, 49-41, with 5:18 remaining in the game.
But Pentucket regrouped whenever needed and held on for the solid, if not overwhelming victory.
"We didn't have our best game, but we'll focus more on our defense and be ready Saturday," said Pentucket point guard Erin McNamara, who was held to one field goal and nine points.
"This was nice, but we haven't done anything yet. Our goal is to make it to the state championship."
Holly Jakobsons scored Pentucket's first nine points and finished with 11 points while Vanessa Cahill joined McNamara with nine points, freshman Coley Viselli had a pair of 3-pointers and eight points and classmate Tess Nogueira chipped in with four points and five rebounds.
"That's the beauty of our team," said coach McNamara. "We can be off our game offensively, but our defense always keeps us in it."
Overall, Pentucket forced 26 turnovers and held the Spartans to 6-of-29 shooting in the pivotal first half.
This will be Pentucket's fourth straight trip to the North finals, having won it in both 2007 and 2008. During that stretch, the Sachems are an impressive 89-8, but they have yet to get to the state championship game, a void they hope to correct in the next week.
Pentucket 58, St. Mary's 48
Division 3 North Semifinals
St. Mary's (48): Amenta 1-4-6, Ferrari 1-2-5, T.Faieta 8-5-21. Carey 3-0-6, Tiro 3-1-10. Totals 16-12-48
Pentucket (58): Lane 0-0-0, McNamara 1-6-9, C.Viselli 3-0-8, Jakobsons 4-2-11, A.Viselli 6-2-15, Iola 1-0-2, Higgins 0-0-0, T.Nogueira 2-0-4, Stephenson 0-0-0, Cahill 4-1-9. Totals 21-11-58
3-pointers: SM — Ferrari, Tiro 3; P — McNamara, C.Viselli 2, Jakobsons, A.Viselli
St. Mary's (17-7):10âÇâÇ9âÇ15âÇ14 — 48
Pentucket (24-0):19âÇ14âÇ14âÇ11 — 58